Friday, July 10, 2015

Tales of a Tour Guide, Part 10

Today was the first day that I felt genuinely irritated as a tour guide. Some of my displeasure was aimed at tourists, but admittedly, some was aimed at a fellow tour guide. I’ll tell my stories below, as if you give a damn.

I’ve mentioned before that large tour groups are taken on “splits,” where the tour groups are split into two during one part of the tour so as to better accommodate them in the Mansion House. Today was the first time that I was the lead tourist on a split, meaning I was with at least half of the group throughout the entire process. I had been told that a fellow tour guide—let’s call him Azrael (not his real name) —was going to meet me at the well by the Homestead in order to take half of the group to the Mansion House while I took the other half to the Smith Family Cemetery. When I arrived with my large group at the well, however, Azrael was nowhere to be found. I then assumed (or maybe just hoped) Azrael would be waiting for his half of the tour group at the Mansion House. I hoped he would see us coming, walk out to take his half of the group, and I could continue on with my half. But he never came out. So, I quickly feel forced to tell half of the group to just stay put while I take the other half of the group and go open the Mansion House, still hoping that Azrael is going to be inside. When I arrive at the Mansion House and open the door, Azrael is nowhere to be found. I’m now wondering what the hell I’m supposed to do. Thankfully, when I peer back outside, Azrael is running up to the Mansion House. I don’t know how much of the misunderstanding was his own fault, but he said he thought he was supposed to go back to the visitor’s center rather than wait at the Mansion House. Whatever the cause of that, the near-crisis was averted. But the frustration isn’t over quite yet. When you do a split and you are trading off between half-groups, each tour guide is responsible for guiding their initial half-group partway to the other tour guide. Azrael didn’t do this. So, after both half-groups had seen both the cemetery and the Mansion House, I had to once again abandon half of the total tour group in order to take care of the half that Azrael wasn’t taking care of himself. Instead of guiding the tourists over to me to head to Red Brick Store, Azrael simply let them out of the Mansion House, in front of which they stood, huddled together, blabbing at each other. I had to go round them up. Now, it’s possible these people knew they should be heading over to me and simply weren’t doing so. That wouldn’t be Azrael’s fault. But Azrael wasn’t there trying to steer them along as he should’ve been. It ended up being a hectic, annoying experience for me.

And now for a tale of annoying tourists. Now, I know that in previous blog posts I’ve mentioned silly things that I find kind of annoying about tourists, but today was the first time I genuinely thought they were kind of being jerks. To understand the story, you need to know that our tours begin with a 12-minute video. It is our policy that so long as a tour isn’t sold out and the video has only been going for a few minutes, we will offer someone who walks into the visitor’s center asking for a tour to join in with the group already watching the video in the auditorium. So, this afternoon, a large group of people come into the visitor’s center about four minutes after I’ve started a video for my next tour group. One of the women asks about taking a tour, and I explain that a tour group has just started watching a video in our theater and they can join in with that group if they’re so inclined. I was, of course, then going to explain that there is a $3 fee for the tour, but I didn’t even have time before these people said, “Great,” and started shuffling into the theater. I had to call to the woman and explain, “There’s actually a $3 per person preservation fee for the tour.” She looked rather put out by that. (I’ve heard that some people are off-put by being charged for the tour, but this was my first experience with such a thing.) Trying to help, I explained that they could watch the video for free, but the guided tour itself would cost extra. She wouldn’t commit to anything. She just kind of mumbled, walked away, and entered the theater. A few minutes later, a group of six comes into the visitor’s center asking to go on tour. We explain that the video is just wrapping up, but if they’d like to forgo the video and jump onto the tour that is about to embark from the building, they can. They agree. I’m about to go into the theater at this point because the video is ending. I try to stay behind to guide in these six tourists. But then they start talking with some other group of tourists. Meanwhile, this tour is one I’ve been instructed to be particularly quick with because I’m slated to give a tour starting in exactly one hour. That’s tight. So I dilly-dally for only a moment before I feel like I have to give up on these six newcomers and head into the theater. The video is over, but everybody is still just sitting there—those who actually paid for the tour and that huge group of grouchy people who didn’t. I explain to the crowd that I will be taking those who purchased tour passes out the back door while those who did not purchase a tour pass should exit into the lobby. Once again, the grouchy people act annoyed. “Well, can we get in on this tour?” one of them asks. “You’ll need to check at the desk to see if they still have room on this tour. I’m not sure how many spots are available at this point and we can only have so many people in the homes at once.” Again, they act put out by this. Irksome. So, the grouchy people leave the theater. Meanwhile, the six latecomers still have not come into the theater. I don’t know what to do about it, so I take the responsible fee-paying tourists out the back door. We haven’t gone very far before my boss is opening the door of the visitor’s center and calling to me to wait up so that the six latecomers and the group of grouchies can join me. Aye carumba, people. If you want to go on the damn tour, buy a pass and then follow the tour guide! It’s not rocket science!

And now for something more lighthearted. This is something that also annoyed me, but not in a serious way. It’s a story more of the amusing/annoying variety. One of the groups I took around today was an LDS youth group. There were adult chaperones, of course, one of whom asked me at the end of the tour when I was taking questions, “The Latter Day Saints who stayed behind in Nauvoo and didn’t follow the counsel to go west, were they seen as less faithful because they weren’t willing to follow the prophet all the way to Utah?” This has got to be the most LDS-centric question I’ve yet to receive. I wish I had said more than I did, but I told the guy something like this: “After Joseph died, it wasn’t entirely clear who should lead the Church next. People debated that. Most of the people followed Brigham Young, but his claim was that the Quorum of the Twelve, as a group, would lead the Saints. He wasn’t thinking about anybody becoming president of the Church just yet. Not everyone agreed with him, so different groups went in different directions. The people who stayed in Nauvoo would not see themselves as not following the prophet. I think many people today view the groups who didn’t go with Brigham as ‘breaking off’ from the Church, probably because Brigham’s group went on to become the largest. But that’s not really an accurate way to look at it. After Joseph died, different people just went in different directions.” Who knows what the guy thought of my response, but oh well.

I’m very tired today. My feet are very sore. I gave a total of five tours today, including three tours back-to-back (which was not supposed to happen—I had to take a tour assigned to Azrael because he wasn’t back in time to take them himself—yet another source of frustration in my day). Melanie says I look sunburned. I should be using sunscreen, I guess, but I don’t even have time to put sunscreen on throughout the day. I could put it on before work and maybe have it last through one tour. But by the time I’ve given three or four tours—or five—it’s not going to matter anymore.

And now for today’s fun fact from church history. Polygamist off-shoots of the LDS Church that exist today have more sound reasons for existing than many Mormons would suppose. Most LDS folks are unfamiliar with an unpublished, un-canonized revelation from the third president of the LDS Church, John Taylor. In the 1886 revelation, the Lord declares in no uncertain terms that polygamy absolutely cannot and will not be abandoned. It appears that the revelation is legitimate—meaning it really did come from President Taylor, who really did present it as a revelation—and as such is now a document of great importance to those fundamentalist groups who continue to practice polygamy. Moreover, these groups believe that in conjunction with the 1886 revelation and in order to keep the practice alive, Taylor gave Lorin C. Woolley the power and authority to perform polygamous marriages—even when and if such marriages should one day need to be performed outside the official capacity of the Church. Such claims may sound outlandish to modern LDS ears, but polygamy has a long history of being shrouded in secrecy and doublespeak from church leaders. The trend of publicly denying polygamist marriages while privately endorsing and performing them starts with Joseph Smith, but continues under the likes of Presidents Lorenzo Snow and Wilford Woodruff, who led the LDS Church when it was facing critical backlash from the U.S. Government over the issue of plural marriage. It was the duplicitous nature of early church leaders that made necessary Joseph F. Smith’s so-called “Second Manifesto” declaring an end to plural marriage in 1904; it seems Woodruff’s original 1890 Manifesto (now Official Declaration 1 in the Doctrine and Covenants) was considered by many, for good reason, to be nothing more than a political ruse.

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